Drummer Benny Amón, transplanted here from California in 2011, has been digging into the sounds of New Orleans revival heroes Zutty Singleton and the Barbarin Brothers. Pearls was recorded in a large space (the now defunct Norwegian Seamen’s Church) and this reproduces that era’s sound perfectly—for the better, because playing live in a big room usually sounds better than being isolated in recording booths. For worse, in that some drum detail is lost.
That is my only complaint. Amón has this style down cold, and has used his expertise to play Preservation Hall regularly and appear at several international festivals. Wendell Brunious is playing at his traditional best. Steve Pistorius jelly-rolls along nicely, and adds a lesser-known James P. Johnson waltz, “Eccentricity,” to the mix. Tom Fischer’s wit and Tim Laughlin’s exquisite sound show why they’ve been in demand for decades. Joe Goldberg, Freddie Lonzo, Tyler Thomson and Alex Belhaj all nail their roles.
Most of the tunes may be familiar to fans of the genre, but the catchy “Give Me Your Telephone Number” is a nice surprise, as is “My Baby.” This is a solid debut, and a reminder of how this 75-year-old strain of New Orleans jazz keeps reaching out to young musicians and lures them to town.